This Straight, No Chaser revisits what could become the COVID-19 new normal. Have you wondered why and how the United States has become comfortable with annual deaths from influenza between 30,000 and 70,000? Well, you’re witnessing how this happens.
Using Influenza’s History for Clues about the New NormalInfluenza has been around since 1580 and has caused several pandemics. At some point, the world accepted its existence and, to some extent, its permanence. Still, we are not left defenseless. Outside of pandemics and epidemics, the death rate is largely determined by compliance with immunization recommendations. We face a similar scenario with COVID-19. It will likely be around for the foreseeable future. It will cause an undetermined number of annual deaths. The number is going to be a factor of our willingness to engage in health prevention and ultimately, compliance with taking a vaccine. It remains to be seen if a treatment can be developed to prevent or treat this disease prior to advanced illness occurring. Somehow, health prevention has become politicized such that the basic preventive strategy of wearing a mask is being viewed and defined (by no less than the US president) as a sign of “weakness.” It is notable that the two countries assuming this posture (the US and Brazil) lead the world in active COVID-19 cases. This isn’t necessary.
The COVID-19 New Normal
The evolving COVID-19 new normal is such that the term “preventable deaths” will become a prominent part of the American vernacular. The political divide and the decisions made by the population on testing, social distancing, hand washing and sanitizing, disinfecting objects, mask wearing, isolation, testing, contact tracing and vaccination independently and collectively will determine the number of total deaths and independent deaths. This will occur in the same way compliance with vaccination has for influenza. Our populations are already rolling the dice in deciding whether or not to comply with these maneuvers. Choose your decisions and actions wisely. There is a killer among us. Whether we come out of this first wave better or worse off is very much to be determined.